Review: SUUNTO Spartan Ultra GPS training watch

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Training with data is pretty much standard practice these days. There are a handful of well respected brands producing cutting edge technology to help you plan, monitor and analyse your performance. SUUNTO has recently launched the Spartan Ultra watch in a range of models to help you get the best out of your training. In a crowded market with most major brands offering many options to suit all needs, does the Spartan stand its ground?


SUUNTO Spartan key features

  • Battery life of 18 hours with full power 1 second GPS fix rate delivering best GPS accuracy
  • Outdoor-grade colour touch screen
  • Triathlon and multisport mode
  • Compatibility with Stryd running power meter
  • Automatic intervals in pool

SUUNTO says

(The) SUUNTO Spartan Ultra is an advanced multisport GPS watch sporting a color touch screen, 100m (300ft) water resistance and up to 26h of battery life in training mode. Compass and barometric altitude with FusedAlti™ ensure you always stay on course. With 80 pre-set sport modes and rich sport specific metrics Spartan Ultra is your ultimate training partner. Follow your progress with personal bests and train smarter with community training insights. Discover new routes on Suunto Movescount using heatmaps and let the watch route navigation guide you. Spartan Ultra watches are hand-made in Finland and built to last in any conditions.

What we say:

SUUNTO have always made solid and reliable watches built for the outdoors so the Spartan has a lot to live up to. First impressions are very positive, the Spartan has a large face but is a pleasing shape and sits very nicely on the wrist. It actually is a very comfortable fit and the large screen is really easy to read. It feel less bulky that its size suggests. The underside of the watch is a more curved shape offering a more comfortable fit that some other watches on the market.

The use of the Spartan was not without its initial teething issues. My older Mac would not communicate correctly with the watch to enable upgrade of the firmware and synchronisation of data. This was not the case with a newer Mac or a windows PC and set up and sync has henceforth being straight forward. SUUNTO have a plan laid out for firmware updates to the watch with new features being added at a speedy rate of knots! Having had the watch since its UK launch I have kept a keen eye on the internet for watch news, it has been a mixed bag of positives and a few initial teething issues as I had experienced. There were a few issues with lack of basic features at launch but in all honesty, this meant I have been able to get to grips with the basics and not be overwhelmed by things. Learning a step at a time.

SUUNTO

So now we are up to date with firmware on the watch and the roll out of new features is happening, how good is it?

Starting out the watch offers a touch screen and in use, has proved an effective means of navigating the menus. The touch interface is at first use a little frustrating but once you work it out it is perfectly simple. It is a different technique to using the touch screen on your phone. It does not respond that well to the fast swipe or flick you might use on your phone screen, instead it responds every time to a deliberate slide of your finger. Slide not swipe! In practice this means that you do not accidentally activate the watch via an stray touch. Once you work this out the watch works every time. Again, initial posts on the internet seemed to dismiss the screen as a poor performer but slow down your finger slides and its brilliantly effective.

Next up, it’s a colour screen, this I feel is a pleasant rather than an essential feature. The resolution is high so all text and graphics are nicely rendered and very readable. Full marks for the screen and it’s easy to read in action. It works well when displaying the graphical data though.

One of the reasons I was keen to try out the Spartan was its ability to work easily with the Stryd running power meter. On my existing watches power is only available in bike mode which is fine but it does mean I have to edit my uploaded data to swap from cycle to run otherwise Strava etc thinks I have done a really slow, short bike ride. Probably more truth than I care to admit! Power is a great metric for looking at performance, better its is suggested than heart rate and is a more immediate reading when out running. An example being at the top of a hill your heart rate will have a lag as you crest the hill whilst power offers an almost immediate change in data readings. The power reading adjusts faster than heartrate.

Acquiring GPS location data seems to have been almost immediate. I suffered no waiting around for the watch to locate itself. I almost forgot this as a point as the watch has never once made me pause for a moment or a few minutes on the driveway picking out the GPS signal. So again, this must be full marks. Previous SUUNTO models had a large GPS bulge on the strap to accommodate the locating technology. It was never that bulky, but on the Spartan it has been pushed inside the watch body and it works a treat and offers a more streamlined appearance.

You will find the watch has a multitude of sports modes to suit all manner of physical activities and you have a suitably featured triathlon mode for your racing pleasure. 80+ sports modes intact are available to load up to your watch and easily selectable via the Movescount website.

SUUNTO

Movescount is the SUUNTO ecosystem for its watches. Here you create an account and can upload and store your training data. In use it is an easy to navigate system and works well for planning and analysing data. So far I have not had any issues with its implementation or connectivity with the watch. Its ability to connect to Strava etc is simple and easy to implement. There is no issues with social media either, you can share all you want.

Alongside the website there is the phone app. Movecount on the mobile is a good looking offering and syncs easily with the Spartan, occasionally the phone has not automatically connected with the watch but a simple click into the Bluetooth menu connects it straight away. This might be due to me not giving it enough time to link up by itself! I can be impatient!

An interesting feature is the movie feature showing your route and terrain, especially effective on hilly routes! More fun than function but a nice reminder of any mountains you may have ridden and easily shared via social media.

The GPS watch arena is a very competitive market ruled by a select few. In the march to steal the market the Spartan is a very capable contender. After its initial setup issues it has been faultless and delivered on its specifications. It has been a simple transition from my other watches and a simple learning curve using the phone app and web software. The web app allows export of data in various formats and I have again being importing data into Xhale without issue. You can equally use Training Peaks or stick with Movescount. If you are only using the SUUNTO then there is little reason to use anything other than the SUUNTO software as it is very capable.

Another plus point for the watch, it is still in its early days of development. So far it looks like a very exciting option for you to consider. The obvious rivals being Garmin, Polar and TomTom with the SUUNTO being the newest on test here and in its infancy I expect great things as SUUNTO roll out upgrades and new features.

SUUNTO

Looking at the SUUNTO website there are a raft of options for you to check out ranging in price from the suitably lofty to the wallet smarting but it has been a joy to use and if I was to select an everyday watch for tracking my data then this would be on the list. It’s really good now and should get better with updates. The website suggests a solid set of ongoing updates to the watch.

It works as a daily activity tracker too, counting steps and activity, these metrics are all easily visible from the watch screens. Whilst you are in range of your phone you can pick up notifications keeping you up to date with things. You can turn these off quite easily if you want.

As a swimming monitor it records all the data you will need and again has proved suitably accurate and also works out in open water too.

Find out more at the SUUNTO website

SUUNTO